Sharoon Masih (Twitter)

Pakistan’s government has been severely criticised over a Christian student beaten to death by his classmates on only his second day in school, reports Catholic news agency Fides.

A statement, signed by Bishop Joseph Arshad and Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, both of the Catholic Bishops’ National Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP), about the killing of 17-year-old Sharoon Masih on 30 August, expressed “deep concern for the level of extreme negligence on behalf of school authorities”.

They added that the incident may have seemed “a trivial quarrel among teenagers, but it was actually caused by intolerance, discrimination and inhuman attitudes towards minorities and marginalised communities”.

Masih died after being beaten to death at MC Model High School in Vehari, Punjab province. It is alleged that classmate Raza Ahmed killed him. Pakistani media reports alleged that the behaviour and possible negligence of school staff contributed to Masih’s death.

Fr Yousaf also urged the Government of Punjab, and in particular the Education Department, to “seriously look into episodes of intolerance in educational institutions”.

Joseph Arshad, Bishop of Faisalabad, and Chair of the Catholic Bishop's National Commission for Justice and Peace (Wikipedia)
Joseph Arshad, Bishop of Faisalabad and Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace (Wikipedia)

“We need reforms of the school curriculum in order to promote a tolerant and peaceful society,” he added.

The Christian MP, Khalil George, spoke to Parliament on 12 September about curriculum reform in Pakistan’s schools. “The case of Sharoon Masih is tragic and a shame for the country,” he told Fides. “That is why I have asked all members of the National Assembly to reconsider the issue of the school curricula reform in Pakistan as a priority and I have asked to introduce the theme ‘inter-religious harmony’ as a subject in all public schools of every order and degree of study.”

Two reports published in 2016 criticised Pakistan’s education policy. ‘Freedom from Suffocating Education’ by the NCJP said school textbooks are riddled with “hate material”. A report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in April that “the trend towards a more biased curriculum against religious minorities is accelerating“. USCIRF looked at religious bias in textbooks used by schools in four provinces in Pakistan, including Punjab. Although some biased elements had been removed since USCIRF’s initial research in 2011, it noted that there were many more new examples in the 2016 versions of the same books.